Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wonderful Gifts

Today begins my 59th year on the planet.

Yes, 59. That's only one year away from being a sexagenarian (which is NOT what it sounds like!). But all that aside, my 59th birthday is another special milestone for me and my family. Especially since, according to the "average statistics" it's a birthday I should have never seen. I had just celebrated by 54th when it was learned that I had fourth stage colon cancer. A large tumor, and a big chunk of my intestines, were subsequently removed. The doctors told me that the cancer was also in fourteen of the lymph nodes they removed, and was "scattered through my liver like grass seed". Eighteen to twenty two months are the average survival time, so, theoretically, I have been blessed with three extra birthdays that I should not have seen.

I am so blessed!

Birthdays, in general, are not big deals at our house. Basically it's just another day with a little celebration in the evening. The family comes over. There is a cake, some ice cream, a few cards, and usually some small gifts. The birthday person blows out the candles, and the occasion is noted for posterity with a few photos. Always a nice time, and a time for reflection.

My reflections this morning revolve around gifts. Not gifts like sweaters, and neck ties, and wallets, etc. Intangible gifts. Those gifts that cannot be held in one's hands, but gifts that really make life on this orb so special. I'm talking about gifts like:

  • Family. I was blessed to be born into a wonderful loving family, with Christian parents, and good, godly grandparents, loving aunts and uncles, and a great group of cousins on both sides of the family. I was the first grandson on both sides, and was totally spoiled by the Adkins and Stidham clans. I have two wonderful brothers and we were all born at five year intervals. We live in three different states and don't often have opportunity to be together, but there is a tie that binds us closely together in love and care for one another. My two nephews and two nieces are some of the finest young people you would ever meet.

  • Linda. One of God's greatest gifts to me. I met her forty years ago this month, and from that point on, she has been my love, my solid rock, my best friend, unwaveringly faithful and loyal, my chief supporter, my kindest critic, my sweet thing, and my prime rib. She has washed my clothes, cooked my meals, borne our children, and been the most loving wife, mother, and grandmother I have ever known. Ain't no woman like the one I've got!

  • My Sons and their Families - Jay is a pastor and theologian. Benji is a teacher and coach. They are both good at what God has called them to do. He has blessed them with wonderful Christian wives who have been pictures of unconditional love and grace. The four grandsons that they have given us have been the light of our lives for these past (almost) 10 years. Quint, Will, Canon, and Asher are blessings to me that I cannot begin to describe with mere words!

  • Friends. What can I say about the hundreds and hundreds of friends who have touched my life? They range from the boyhood buddies like Donnie Smith and Rick Hall, to school mates, military comrades, neighbors, kids I have coached, business colleagues, fellow service club members, band parents, athletic boosters, insurance clients, teachers, coaches, school administrators, friends of my children, and brothers in the ministry. The miracle of Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with some friends whom I haven't seen in more than 40 years. I love them all!

  • Church Family. Mom and Dad took me to church from nine months before I was born until I left home as a young adult, and I grew up with a loving church family at Thomas Memorial Church in Huntington, WV. It has been my pleasure to serve in pastoral ministry to six congregations since 1976. I was an Associate Pastor (under Rev. Carl Vallance) at Central Free Will Baptist Church in Huntington, WV, and served as lead Pastor at Sousannah FWB, and Pleasant Valley FWB in Cabell County, Wayside Baptist and Ashland Baptist Churches in Kentucky, and for the past seven years at Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, WV. I am happy to say that I feel that I could go back to any of those churches, and still feel right at home, and I still cherish the love and friendship of each of those precious congregations. In fact, I'll be preaching at Wayside's homecoming service this Sunday afternoon.

  • Material Blessings. These are way down the list in importance, because they are temporal in nature, but appreciated nonetheless. I am thankful for a roof over my head, a comfortable home, the clothing I wear, dependable transportation, enough money to pay the bills (so far), and my library.

  • My Health. I still see lots of doctors, but I thank God for the health care I have received, and that I am able to function physically and mentally (although some may think I am somewhat suspect in the latter category)

  • My Savior. This is the greatest gift of all. The Grace of God reached all the way down to my fallen state, and brought me into a relationship with Him. He cleansed me. He forgave me. He brought me from death to life. Like the Psalmist said, "He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He sat my feet on a rock and established my goings. He put a new song in my heart". The means of this transformation is Jesus the Christ. He took my sin upon Himself and gave me eternal life.

Eternal life. That sounds good doesn't it"? Especially once the years in this one begin to mount into the really big numbers! I believe in Heaven and I know I am going there one day, but I am also thankful for the Abundant Life God has given me in the here and now. A line from John Denver's "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" has long been a favorite of mine, and kind of sums up how I feel on this 59th birthday, "I have to say it now, it's been a good life all in all. It's really fine to have a chance to hang around..."


Charlie & Charlotte said...

Charlie and I want to wish you a very Happy Birthday, I want you to know that you and your family have been a blessing in our lives we really enjoyed you when you were at the Ashland Baptist and love that we can continue to stay connected thur Facebook. We Love you CJ, have a great day.

Cathy H said...

from Old Sad Mary